At one point in the West Indian innings, when Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell were breezing through a partnership that doubled their total score in ten overs- it seemed like India may have taken the term ‘Dead Rubber’ a bit too seriously. Runs were being scored at will, and part time bowlers were made to look like part time bowlers. For once.
But this is a West Indian team without Sarwan, Gayle and Chanderpaul- three of their most prolific modern day players- who know a thing or two about finishing an innings, destroying an opposition when on top, and most of all- murdering all sorts of Indian teams. So when they’re 79/5 with nobody but a perpetually out-of-form Pollard at the crease, they’re actually in deep trouble- tail enders or not. So when Russell perished while trying to complete a needless single, it almost seemed inevitable- because this West Indian outfit surely isn’t used to being able to pull a rabbit out of the hat. The habit of winning has eluded them years ago, and even the presence of ex-Great Brian Lara hadn’t pulled them out of that funk.
Too little too late
Hence, inspite of Pollard’s humungous effort that increased his total ODI run tally by 20% in one match alone (after over 50 ODI games), they were never really in with a serious shout. Inspite of an Indian team that was virtually unrecognizable from the World Cup Winning squad only 6 months ago, and inspite of a weak part-time bowling line-up that looked determined to make sure that Pollard retains some form for Mumbai Indians’ next outing in the IPL, the West Indian team definitely knew that the writing was on the wall. Even Virat Kohli dropping a sitter at the end, allowing Pollard to get to his maiden ODI century, wasn’t enough to ensure that West Indies finished with an ounce of pride intact. They didn’t, whatever their commentators and ex-players say, because ‘efforts’ can be translated into results only if they give more than 100% every single day of their lives- which, in all certainty, this young line-up doesn’t believe in doing. If they’re looking for inspiration, all they need to do is observe the bench of the Indian squad. Players like Rahul Sharma and Manoj Tiwari have begun to utilize whatever little opportunity that they get- literally feeding on scraps. But they have made it count- because they have done their job, and shown that they possess the hunger to perform at the highest level: at the level at which a World-Cup Winning team should perform. It could be a while before they become permanent members of this squad, but they’d have walked into this West Indian team- for their heart alone.
Who better than their own captain Darren Sammy to exemplify their abject performance on this tour? The clueless wonder has performed in all of one game- confining himself to the law of averages- and has, in fact, relegated himself to the status of a batting all-rounder now. After bowling a total of two overs in this last ODI at Chennai, and batting at number 8, even Ian Bishop was questioning the whole point of having a non-playing captain. Quite clearly, the squad needs a new leader- someone like Gayle- who can stun his own team with his own skills when down and out. But, Alas, politics is beyond a common man’s understanding, and all we hope for is a bit of Caribbean swagger back in the ranks- something that could give even our second string ODI team a run for their money.
Nevertheless, it was quite a satisfactory performance by a new-look Indian team that included Rahane, Tiwari and Irfan Pathan. Rahane looked like a man secured with the knowledge that he was on the plane to Australia- and his duck confirmed his state of mind. Parthiv clearly seems to have come to terms with the fact that Saha is on the plane Down Under. But Manoj Tiwari- with his lionhearted century- seems to have given the selectors some food for thought for the tri-series Down Under. Of course, he was given an opportunity that even Rohit Sharma thirsts for (batting at number 3), but he made full use of it.
All eyes, though, were on Irfan Pathan. He steamed in with an expression that had made him the darling of millions for a couple of years, and even knocked over a few hopeless-looking top order West Indian batsmen. He was on cloud 9, all over again, with his patented in-swinger that trapped Simmons on the crease (remnant of old bunny Mohammed Yusuf) and then bowling a shocked left-handed Powell with the same ball. Life was good. A maiden was bowled, and he seemed to be on his way back into the Indian fold of things.
Gone in Six balls
Thankfully, Pollard- on his day- may have exposed Pathan’s limited ability with the ball at the end by firing two consecutive sixes- and gave the Indian selectors something to think about once again. Irfan, inspite of his 2-wicket effort, was brought back down to earth and reminded why he was dropped three years ago. From a neutral perspective, Pathan still doesn’t seem to possess the pace-and-swing combination that could harass the best of the best on foreign soil, or even home soil for that matter. He is still a bit short, but is definitely high on confidence. That’s step one, for now.
So India finished the series 4-1, and the one-sided result only put into perspective the haplessness of their opposition- rather than their own strengths. They will always be strong on home soil, and it wasn’t really the test they needed before a tough tour. Nevertheless, it is a confidence-booster, and most Indian fans just hope that it isn’t the same kind of confidence that propelled the team to a humiliating 4-0 loss to England after their last face-off.
To have a look at the lighter side and an astute comical analysis of this tour, move over to the next post on our blog- and you may just have achieved a cricket-reader’s equivalent of Nirvana.